Hip to be square

Clockwise from top-left: glass, metal, faux-wood and patterned ceramic.

Clockwise from top-left: glass, metal, faux-wood and patterned ceramic.

The most effective way to make a bold visual statement in your kitchen or bath is through the use of tile. In the same way that fabrics add that splash of color and texture to living rooms and bedrooms, a creative use of tile will bring kitchen and bath to life, reflecting light and adding depth and texture. There’s never been a better time to experiment with tile than now, when manufacturers are offering so many creative options that look great and are both easy care and affordable; most range from $3 to $15 per square foot, with many in the $5 range.

Glass tile

Glass tiles are the ones that will elicit the “oooh” reaction when people see your bath or kitchen. Use them for backsplashes, shower walls or to provide a striking visual focal point. Glass tiles pick up the light in the room and add depth and luminescence not found in ceramic or natural stone. Available in a wide range of colors, textures and finishes, from glossy to matte and translucent to iridescent, glass tiles make a statement. The most contemporary look is achieved with glass tiles in horizontal interlocking rectangular shapes rather than squares.

To play up the material’s lustrous qualities, insert a few matte-finish tiles into a design of iridescent or translucent glass; the contrast in textures will make each stand out more. For a kitchen backsplash, try using glass tiles in a range of warm earth tones to complement a cozy family space. Luminous blue glass tiles, suggestive of water, are perfect in the bathroom.


Glass tiles of recycled materials are good for those interested in earth-friendly solutions. Easy to clean and care for, glass tiles can be slippery when wet, so are best not used for flooring. On the walls, however, they’ll give a high-end finish and reflect not only the light in the room but your sophisticated sensibility.

Metal tile

In a kitchen backsplash, stainless-steel rectangular metal tile laid out like bricks coordinates beautifully with stainless-steel appliances for a contemporary look. For a sleek finish, grout stainless-steel wall tiles with gray-colored grout.

For a more traditional-style backsplash, try using tin tiles. While they’re usually used on ceilings to evoke an earlier time, tin tiles can go from rustic to rather elegant as a backsplash depending on what the rest of the kitchen looks like. They also play well with stainless-steel appliances. Tin tiles can be painted, but in their natural chrome finish they reflect the light in a room, making it look larger. Their embossed design can look suitably vintage in more traditional surroundings, and yet their shiny metal finish can fit right in a contemporary kitchen, adding texture to harder-edged modern lines.

For the bathroom, try rectangular-shaped bronze or copper metal tile to add visual warmth to a sleek modern bathroom.